Wednesday, January 6, 2010

A newbies guide to geocaching

I recently heard about geocaching and thought I would give it a go. I did & I really enjoy it.

What is geocaching?
I think of geocaching as a treasure hunt using a GPS.

How do I get started?
The official website is where you can sign up with a free basic membership. This gives you access to all the geocaches around the world.

Each cache is recorded by:
- the longitude & latitude
- difficulty & terrain rating (5 being the most difficult)
- the type & size of the cache

Do I need a GPS?
Having an accurate GPS is an advantage. Many car navigation models don't have the accuracy for off-road searching but can be a good starting point. Likewise you can use Google maps or Google Earth to pinpoint the co-ordinates, then use the description and hints to locate the cache.

What is a cache?
A cache is a container (ranging in size from a tiny 1cm high tube to a 20 litre bucket) which contains a logsheet and it may also have items that can be swapped (including special geocaching items called geocoins or travel bugs). There are also Earth caches which are interesting geographic finds.

How do I get started?
Go to
Enter your current location
Find a nearby cache that is at least 400ml in size which gives a better chance of finding it
Check the difficulty & terrain rating (start with an easy one)
Load the co-ordinates into your GPS
Take appropriate clothing & supplies
When you get back, log your find on

Is there anything special I should know?
There are some 'rules' & 'etiquette' that should be observed:
1. If you take something from a cache (never take the logsheet, pencil, sharpener or eraser), leave something of equal or greater value.
2. Make sure you leave the cache as & where you found it (unless it was exposed incorrectly).
3. Watch out for muggles (non-geocachers). Part of geocaching is exploring secretly so others aren't aware of the caches.
4. Respect the environment. Take out your rubbish & don't ruin any natural environments.
5. Be polite & respectful to other geocachers, especially those who went to the trouble of making the cache in the first place.
6. Have fun! Share the fun!

What do I need to watch out for?
It is important to be safe. This means having the right gear for the conditions, being sensible around hazards, checking routes, being prepared and having backup plans if anything doesn't go to plan.

I've found myself on the wrong route to a cache. It is also worth checking that you have the correct co-ordinates!

What should I take?
Here's my (ever-growing) list of useful items:
- Good shoes or boots
- Food & water
- Pen & paper
- Camera
- Bag
- Goodies or trinkets to swap
- Geocaching application for my iTouch
- Sunscreen, sun hat & insect repellant
- Positive attitude
- Small first aid kit (including antibacterial wipes & tissues)
- Layers of clothing & wet weather gear if appropriate (remember the weather can change)
- Cell phone

What now?
log into & start exploring the wonderful world we live in!

Happy geocaching!

If you have any questions or want to add anything, please feel free to post comments. If you want to share your geocaching stories, I'd love to hear them.